Ram Temple and the Khan Market Gang
How does one view the recent “Bhoomi Pujan” of the grand temple of Lord Ram that is going to be constructed at what is believed since ages to be the birth- place of Lord Ram, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, a part of the celebrated and supreme trinity (other two being Brahma and Maheshwar or Shiva) in Sanatan Dharma, which has been distorted under the Arabic influence as “Hinduism”?
A friend from the United States asked me this question the other day. He was reacting to the opinion pieces written in many English dailies and news portals that the “Bhoomi Pujan” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was nothing but laying the foundation of “a Hindu-Pakistan” and sowing the seeds of destruction of the “Secular Indian Republic”. Some even went to the extent of arguing that as it would be increasingly difficult now for the minorities, particularly Muslims, to live in India with dignity, there is the need for another partition of the country to enable another homeland for Muslims.
What was then my answer to my friend in America? It was a longish one, and that too, in instalments, as we talked over phone for more than one hour and half. To begin with, who are the people saying all these things? Their total number in India (a country of 1.3 billion) must not be exceeding few thousands, but they happen to be intellectual elites of the country who for more than 70 years have been totally dominating the media, educational institutes and cultural organisations. They were systematically aided and promoted (in jobs and perks), by every Indian government till 2014. They are still a formidable force even under the Modi-rule; they reject everything that is new; they are against any change in the system that will lead to greater good in a rapidly changing world; they are the biggest threats to those who have dissenting views. And yet, they call themselves to be progressives, liberals and seculars. These are the people whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi once described very appropriately as “the Khan Market gang”, people who are most unrepresentative of India and the Indian culture but thriving because of the patronage of the successive governments.
Delhi’s Khan-Market happens to be one of the leading up-scale markets in the world, not because products are among the costliest. It is more known for the people who visit it – mostly they are the country’s academic, bureaucratic, diplomatic, corporate and political elites. Though, it is unfair to generalise all of them, the fact remains that most of these elites’ view of India is the India that dominates in our text books, media and political discourse. But then theirs is nothing but a jaundiced view and this view is now under increasing challenges. And their reactions to these challenges are nothing but perverse, to say the least. And it is one of reflections of these perverse reactions to the “Bhoomi Pujan” that my friend was unnecessarily worried about.
In my humble view, Hinduism (Sanatan Dharm, to be more appropriate) should be seen more as a way of life rather than as a religion like Islam or Christianity. Unlike others, it is not codified, thus leaving it to various interpretations, often conflicting. As a Hindu, one can live undisturbed as an atheist; even when you are a believer, you may or may not visit a temple; you may or may not believe in idol-worship; you may worship one God/Godless or many at the same time; you may even consider nature and its manifestations in water, air, soil, trees, mountains, animals as Gods/Goddesses. There are no compulsions at all. And what is more important, a Hindu does not find any difficulty in regarding other religions as equals. In fact, a Hindu’s culture considers the whole world as his or her family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).
Unfortunately, this world view of Hindus was not reciprocated by people belonging to other religions who emigrated to the subcontinent over centuries, particularly those who subsequently ruled. Their religion, be it Islam or Christianity, was codified and based on “deductive logic” (here, one begins with a premise and then follows its corollaries. For instance, premise is there is only one God and Mohammad was the last prophet ; corollaries are that one must live by what Mohammad and his colleagues said and practiced and that the non-believers are inferiors and can never be equal in rights and privileges). And to believe their superiority, these rulers destroyed, mostly forcibly, institutions and practices that Hindus believed in. That was how Mogul ruler Babur(or one of his generals) destroyed the place what Hindus believed to be the birth place of Lord Ram and built a mosque in its place. Similarly, Aurangzeb built a mosque in the place of famous Shiva temple in Varanasi. Equally significant was the destruction of the temple of what was supposed to be the birth-place of Lord Krishna in Mathura and the construction of a mosque in its place. Similarly, the subsequent British rulers might not have destroyed temples, but they whittled relentlessly the Hindu culture and confidence.
In what is to be considered an example of Stockholm- syndrome, our Khan Market Gang members have always considered Hindus and their values systems to be inferior to those of Islam and Christianity. In fact, I agree hundred percent with the comment of a face-book friend the other day that “India is the only major country based on a great civilisation where one is systematically taught to hate your heritage and glorify the invaders who came to destroy it. And this absurdity is called secularism.” Secularism in India is not “equal” respect for all religions. The Khan Market gang mentality is that the Hindu majority is always wrong and minorities are not only always right but also deserve more rights and privileges than the Hindus.
The Khan Market gang logic that we have read in our books on history and political science is that “a majoritarian India” is the first step towards destruction of India. Their point is that if Hindu majority will decide the formation of the government and determine its policies, then it will result in disasters. They have no problem if minorities set the government agenda( remember how the Rajiv Gandhi government turned aside the Shahbanoo- judgment by the Supreme Court; how in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, everything began and ended with the Muslim-dominated Kashmir). I have always considered this to be a perverse logic. If overriding the sentiments of the majority and always being dictated by the minorities is the best way to preserve the unity and integrity of the country, then why was it that India was divided in 1947? If majorities are always wrong, then how does one explain the survival of countries such as Hans-dominated China and Slavs-dominated Russia? Have minorities ever mattered in Russia and China? But have these countries disintegrated?
The movement for Ram-Janmbhoomi movement in the 1990s was, in fact, a cultural awakening, which under the leadership of the BJP veteran L.K. Advani made the Hindus realise their rich inheritance. They now challenged why they were being ill-treated in their own country by their rulers and intellectuals. That it was a long struggle of years during which every attempt was made to divide them is a different matter. I distinctly remember how a late colleague of mine in a leading national newspaper was writing pieces differentiating among the Hindu Gods( he described Lord Ram to be the God of the Upper castes and those fighting for Ram temple never bothered about Gods like Krishna(who belonged to OBC) and Shiva( who lived with Sudras).
In sum, the construction of the Ram temple is a cultural regeneration of Hindus, with restoration of their sense of pride. This should not be viewed under religious prisms. In any case, as described above, a true Hindu can never become communal and will never deny others rights under the pretext of caste, creed and ethnicity. He or she treats others as equals. No wonder, Lord Ram has always been described in our epics to be “Maryada Purushottam” (someone who believes everybody’s dignity and welfare). No wonder, Prime Minister, in his speech at Ayodhya underlined that “Ram belonged to All” and a temple in his memory will only strengthen his commitment of “ Sab ki Sath, Sab ki Vikas, Sab ki Viswas”. It is no wonder though that this part of the speech was never highlighted by our media run by the Khan Market gang.
By Prakash Nanda